As we mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme which started in June 1916, it is probably a good time to reflect on the enormous price paid by musicians who gave their lives in the trenches and who lost the chance of what might have been a glittering career.
Those that did survive included the song composer Ivor Gurney who was driven half mad by the guns and died in an asylum in the 1930s, Ernest Moeran suffered a shrapnel wound to the head which hastened his death in 1950 and Vaughan Williams who survived virtually unscathed wrote probably the most haunting and moving symphony of remembrance - The Pastoral No 3.
Probably the most tragic casualty of the war was George Butterworth (1885 – 1916) who was beginning to make a mark in musical circles with his orchestral works “The Banks of Green Willow" and “A Shropshire Lad", both very assured and memorable works. Butterworth like VW was attracted to the French school rather than the overtly German style favoured by most composition teachers at the time at the Royal College of Music. His days at the college were brief but memorable. His musical language tugs at the sleeve with a wistful remembrance of past times that had already disappeared but his songs are atmospheric and moving by turn and still hold a place in modern concert programmes.
Conductor Russman has collected a fine group of works and also orchestrated six of the Shropshire Lad songs together with completing the unfinished Orchestral Fantasia.
This CD is well worth your time if you have family who served in Great War and is a reminder of what we lost and what might have been, the BBC NOW play with great character and the sound of this SACD is very vivid and detailed. I am sure had Butterworth lived he would have taken his place alongside Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams and Britten as one of the finest composers Britain has produced in the 20th century.
George Butterworth -- Orchestral Works
BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Kriss Russman
James Rutherford – Baritone
BIS 2195 SACD